“Gilding the lily” is somewhat particular to American gastronomy. Paris was not the home of the first burger topped with foie gras, nor was Rome where milkshakes first came garnished with slices of cake. It was under these spacious skies, these amber waves of grain, that the Heart Attack Grill first came roaring to life.
So it’s surprising that the Scots seem to wish to usurp Americans for over-the-top-ness. When news broke that a Scottish shop is now serving mayonnaise ice cream, nauseated emojis flooded the Twittersphere. But I know I’m not the only one who thought not, “Ewww,” but “Oooh.”
Ice cream is the best food there is. I’m an obsessed New Englander who likes a creamy mouthfeel, not an icy one. I suss out freezer burn in an instant; I despise the presence of too much sugar; I know when your cones are stale. I’m not an expert in plenty of the world’s many cuisines, but I am an ice cream aficionado.
Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is something I hated as a kid, but a taste of the homemade version converted me. Mayo is the ideal foil for all things tuber: New potatoes spun with garlic aioli. Thin, crisp, salty French fries with mayo for dipping. Mayonnaise on a potato roll with a burger.
It has ice cream’s mouthfeel, and I was optimistic. So when I saw that our genius friends at MyRecipes had developed a mayo ice cream recipe and that they loved it, I couldn’t get my machine set up fast enough. (Check out the video above to see how it’s made.)
I summoned two culinary professional acquaintances whose taste I trust: David Moo, bartender and owner of Quarter Bar, and Allison Plumer, chef and co-owner of Lot 2 in Brooklyn. Both are New Englanders, who in my experience are more obsessed with ice cream than natives of any other state.
I brought my homemade mayonnaise ice cream and French fries with a side of more mayo, because if you’re going to go over the top, why not go all the way over?
A bit about the recipe: It contains a full half cup of mayonnaise in addition to a classic custard base studded with seven golden yolks. Half a cup of mayo. That’s 80 grams of fat added to ice cream just because. As I stood hunched over the sink, furiously scraping at melty bits stuck to the bowl of the ice cream machine, it occurred to me that this is precisely the degenerate lifestyle my mother feared for me when I moved to New York City 18 years ago.
And the taste? Moo, who hails from Boston, had “complicated” feelings before his first bite. “When I envision eating ice cream, something that texture or temperature, and finding that it’s mayonnaise-flavored, something in me says, ‘Gross.’” He qualified this by noting that he’s had olive oil ice cream, and liked it, so he was open-minded about the fat-on-fat effect.
Plumer, on the other hand, was psyched: “I am a lover of mayonnaise and a lover of all forms of ice cream. I’ve had blue cheese ice cream, savory ice creams—I wasn’t weirded out.”
We dug in. It was silky and decadent, right on the edge, for this taster, of “too much.” Its flavor was in the cream cheese, sour cream, crème fraîche or cheesecake flavor family. The texture was extremely creamy. As Moo said simply, “This is f(*^ing delicious.”
Chef Plumer agreed, liking its tanginess and similarity to a mild cheese. She instinctively wanted to play around with it more, adding bittersweet chocolate sauce or black pepper for balance.
We reached for the fries, and I saw us at a seaside ice cream shack with shakes, burgers and fries—a classic coastal order. The flavor of the mayonnaise flared as the salt hit our palates and the familiar combo of mayo and fries registered.
Did it need anything else? Maybe a tiny bit of sea salt, sprinkled on for serving. I’d love to try a tomato sorbet or gelato next to it—the Southern tomato sandwich of desserts. Plumer mused about serving it with cilantro ice cream or a sweet corn sorbet. But all three tasters gave mayonnaise ice cream a four out of five on the Snobby New Englander Ice Cream Excellence scale. We agreed that we’d serve it to guests—maybe without telling them what was in it.
“If you told someone this was cheesecake ice cream,” laughed Plumer, “they’d believe you.”
Alex Van Buren—follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen—is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and content strategist who has written for The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Epicurious.